Blog By: Musa Manneh
Earlier this week villagers of Gunjur in the Gambia found out that the Bolong Fenyo Wildlife Reserve seemed poisoned by the nearby ‘Golden Lead’ factory. The factory was temporary stopped for investigations but is operating again. Kids are now playing in the toxic waters of the bolong now and run major health risks. How far will this go? When will this stop? Will people have to die to bring an end tot his?
Golden Lead Company’s Fish Factory is responsible
Earlier this week the Chinese Golden Lead Company’s Fish Factory in Gunjur was urged to stop their operations by the government. Minister Gomez from fisheries visited Gunjur but did not visit the beaches covered in dead fish. He instead blamed our local fishermen from dumpings of fish and overfishing the area. A recent interview fed the anger of the local community. Nothing seems to open his eyes about what is really going on in our Gambia. Maybe that innocent kids that are playing in highly toxic waters will open the eyes of minister Gomez?
A silent national environmental disaster is taking place
A national environmental disaster is taking place and for now nobody is taking action to stop this. The local action group is currently doing more research to the fate of the children who were playing in the toxic water. These kids should be protected by the authorities. They should not be allowed to go there, they have no idea how bad playing in the water can damage their health. Time will tell because still nothing is done to support and protect the locals from the evil operations of this factory.
‘Would you still dare to eat a fish coming out of these waters?’
Yesterday a large part of the bay was covered into a stinky brown substance. People who were swimming there now suffer from serious skin infections. Locals fear for the worst. Can they still eat the fish without fearing for their health? Would you still dare to eat a fish that is coming out of these waters? We need very good research to the damage that has been done. We need to know what the risks are for our health to prevent more health problems and damage tot he region we need to shut this factory down immediately!
People desperately need help
We feel that minister Gomez is letting us down. We want him to know how worried we are. It seems that Gomez is completely misinformed as his comments go directly against what the director of the NEA said on a recent interview. How can a community have confidence when different departments do not seem to share information? Our calls for help were listened to the Hon Dr Isatou Touray came earlier this week and listened to community members and stakeholders.
We know that the government have sent a delegation to the factory to investigate what is happening and why areas are being subjected to pollution however we have had no formal information as to whether areas that are polluted could be hazardous to our health. What we need now is the confidence that from this all the necessary departments are working together and we need to know what has been put in place to ensure the bad practices do not continue. Have water samples been taken? Are the results available? Are we at risk of illness?
The local action group contacted other international organizations in the hope to find more support and make the world aware of this silent national disaster. We need all the media coverage we can get to inform the world, as our government is not taking care to save us and our environment. This is feeding the anger of the community.
What minister Gomez thinks about it
This is what minister Gomez told Freedom Radio Gambia
Freedom Radio Gambia: And what’s the factory in Kartong all about? What is the factory all about?
Minister Gomez: Well, this is a fishing factory too, which was built. In fact, I don’t have all the details. I understand that it was built by a Mauritanian, who I have not seen. You must remember that our government is only four months old. And as a government, we have to honor all the agreements that anybody had with the former government. The factory is there, but the factory is not operating because the factory first must have an environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment to start operating. They haven’t got that yet. They are not operating.
Well dear minister Gomez they are operating again, and our people our suffering!
This is not development but a direct threat to our future
Minister Gomez is convinced that foreign investors are the best thing for the Gambia. This completely unsustainable way of fishing and polluting the environment will kill us all and is not development. You don’t have to do research to understand that. This overfishing might be employing 5000 people today, but our fish stocks are already depleting rapidly and if we continue harvesting and polluting our ocean, our children will have nothing because we destroyed it all.
The investors and factories will just move to other countries in a few years, and we will be stuck here in the Gambia with a huge problem. A problem which is created by this minister. This is not the new Gambia we wanted! This is clearly all about money. We hoped that things like this really would change after Jammeh’s government. We can not accept this, only if we take our responsibilities we can survive and prevent famine in the future in West Africa. We need a new, sustainable way of thinking if we want to create a new Gambia.
Our fish is disappearing rapidly to Asia and Europe
‘We are trying to get partners to come and help us. We have a lot of problems with storage. And in the agreement now, if I issue you a license, you will have to run 10% of your catch in the Gambia, so that it can go to the local market.
– Minister Gomez –
Only 10%? So the other 90 percent of our fish is going to Europe and Asia? And we are even looking for more partners to do it even faster? No need to explain that we are responsible ourselves for being exploited. Basically all our fish is going to be exported to abroad, and the 10% that is left is for us Gambians? Have you any idea how much the price of our fish will rise for our local people in one of the poorest countries of the world? This will be absolute suicide for our country. Meat is too expensive for many people, fish is the only protein we have to survive and we need to protect that for our future. If we continue like this we will face our own destruction and create a Famine by our own policies and choices.
A respectless waste of our marine resources
Since the factory is operational millions of dead fish are dumped everywhere in the region. Mass graves are dug by locals everywhere in the area. Millions of fish are dumped that could have end up as food for people. Incredible amounts of fish seem te be juvenile too. Its nothing more then a respect-less waste of our marine resources. We are destroying our Gambia dear people. We need change.
Tourism sector in Gambia is already suffering
The coastline of Gunjur and Kartong is rich in tourism facilities. But local businesses are suffering from the factory too. The smell is so bad sometimes that people can hardly breath, even inside their houses. When people go swimming in the sea they risk serious infections. Sometimes the piles of dead fish are dumped very close to their lodges causing lots of problems. What will happen when the first tourist gets really sick after swimming in Gambian waters? This national disaster is infecting us all!
‘How are we supposed to run our businesses if tourists experience this ’new Gambia’? It used to be a paradise here but it changed into a stinkhole. Our local Wildlife Reserve is poisoned which was very popular to bird watchers. The tourist will not return when the see this and we will loose our businesses and jobs. Our hearts are crying for the Gambia, we fear for the worst’, say local lodge owners.
Blog By: Musa Manneh
Support the locals
Sign the petition
Join the ‘Stop the Golden Lead Factory’ Facebook page
‘‘Protect our Environment’’ Protesters Tell NEA – Foroyaa Newspaper
Interview with NEA Boss – 23th may